Most, if not all, foster parents would agree that it’s a challenging experience. Although each situation is unique, the majority of foster parents would also agree that it’s incredibly rewarding. Many would also concur that being a foster parent is life-changing.
There are approximately 440,000 foster youth nationwide (approximately 18,000 in Illinois) who need a safe, nurturing, loving family. The number continues to increase due to factors such as parental opioid addiction and the need for foster parents is higher than the supply. There are many reasons and circumstances that make it difficult for biological families to meet the needs of their children, which include poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, loss of a job, or lack of support from extended family and community.
Foster Parents Make All the Difference
Foster Parents are the cornerstone of SOS Children’s Villages Illinois model. One of the things that sets SOS Illinois apart from traditional foster care is full-time, professional Foster Parents. The SOS Illinois model places Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages, where up to six children, ranging in age from infants to young adults, call home. Daily life involves taking care of each child’s diverse needs and schedules.
Reasons to Become a Foster Parent
There are many good reasons to consider becoming a foster parent, including a Foster Parent at SOS Illinois. If you’ve been thinking about becoming a foster parent in our community or elsewhere, here are a few of the reasons we think it’s worth considering:
- You can change the course of a child’s life. The many reasons children enter foster care—abuse, neglect, poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness—create adverse environments that can cause PTSD, delayed development and emotional issues, among other things. As a foster parent, you can provide a safe, loving atmosphere that has the power to change a child’s trajectory.
- You can teach a child what a loving family is and how to connect and love. Growing up in a home of anger, abuse, neglect, or turmoil is the norm for many. A child can learn what healthy relationships are and how to treat others with kindness, love, and respect. Many times, children with trauma don’t know how to bond and be nurtured. You can teach them the depths of love and that there are people who care.
- You’re not done parenting. You loved being a parent, but your children are now adults and you still have the desire to parent. The energy, joy, and excitement of children can be contagious. You want to share your parenting experience to help children in need.
- You can break the cycle of abuse and change future generations. Without intervention, children who have lived around abuse and neglect have a greater likelihood of continuing the cycle while raising their own children. An abusive upbringing leads to destructive circumstances like:
- Substance Abuse and Addiction
- Mental Health Problems
- Physical Abuse
Impact of Becoming a Foster Parent
As a foster parent, you have the chance to set a good example of what a stable, loving household is like. Healthy relationships and positive guidance from adults teach children how to do the same. In turn, they’ll use these lessons to raise their own children. Breaking the cycle of abusive behavior benefits future generations and the world in general.
- Keep Siblings Together. Children are often separated in traditional foster care. Finding an agency to foster within that keeps siblings together provides additional benefits to the child and family. As an SOS Illinois Foster Parent, you can help siblings stay together, which research has shown has several major benefits. Children that were kept with their siblings had a more positive and long-lasting relationship compared to those who were separated. Biological siblings who are in touch or raised together have higher self-esteem, social support, stronger relationships, and more successful professional lives as adults. Along with noted behavioral benefits, studies prove the profoundly positive impact of keeping foster kids together on academic performances along with overall behavioral and social dealing of routine issues.
- You ensure that a child has a safe, stable environment. Children are the most vulnerable and dependent members of our society. As a foster parent, you can provide a child safety in their most vulnerable time.
- You may help provide hope and inspiration to biological parents. For many children in foster care, the long-term housing goal is to be reunited legally with a legal parent. Whenever possible, foster parents work alongside case workers and court systems to provide testimony and feedback on visitations and interactions with biological parents working to regain custody of their children. By working as a foster parent, you embody not only the position of caretaker, but often a role model for biological parents doing the work they need to welcome their children back into their homes.
Join Us as a Foster Parent at SOS Illinois
These are just a few of the many reasons to consider becoming a foster parent. We support our Foster Parents with ongoing professional development through our educational and training program called SOS University as well as through other professionals in the Village communities and on-call relief Parents, who provide much-needed and well-deserved relief time for our Foster Parents. SOS Illinois Foster Parents also receive benefits.
Recent coverage on ABC News Live provides a window on the life of SOS Illinois Foster Parent, Ms. Hope, and the six foster children who live with her in one of our villages.If you’re ready to make a difference in the life of a child and would like information on becoming an SOS Illinois Foster Parent, we’d love to hear from you.